I first came across Andrea Caballero’s work more than a year ago when she created a gouache painting for the Women’s March. That work was widely circulated on Instagram. Two months later, a familiar work, distinctly Andrea’s style, circulated for Women’s Day; it was a multicultural portrait of women, emphasizing the notion of inclusion. Below are transcripts from my conversation with her.
Andrea, some of your pieces show a mix of minimalism and yet vibrant color schemes. How do you find the right balance between the two?
I have always found simplicity to be quite powerful, but it doesn’t mean it can’t have bold colors. Colors play a huge roll in telling a story, that’s why it is so important to choose them correctly, since they set the mood. You will never see a bright color in a sad part of a story.
I guess the balance between minimalism and colors also comes with choosing the right amount of the latter, a palette that is strong enough where it doesn’t need all the other ones in the color wheel (so hard to do because I love them all!).
One of your fortes is doing Spot Illustration. Can you briefly explain what it is and give any insight you can about your process?
Spot illustrations are small drawings which can stand on their own, meaning without borders or backgrounds. And they are created to highlight featured areas on home pages, books, magazines, etc.
For these, I usually sketch on my iPad, and once I am happy with the design, I paint it with gouache (water-based paint) on paper. I scan it and make final adjustments on the computer.
Your attention to details is pretty amazing. Have you always been an observant and meticulous individual?
I have always been extremely observant: streets, reflected colors, movement, textures. I tend to notice little things that usually somebody else would just pass by. There’re so many interesting details you can find if you just pay attention.
But people are generally on their phones these days… Oh, how many things they are missing. I definitely think this attribute, in particular, has helped me in art, dance, and life; it really makes me feel more present.
What inspires your art?
I draw inspiration from my childhood, my culture, experiences, and travel. I also like to focus on social problems like the environment, international celebrations, and fun facts to educate myself and others. Another very important source of inspiration will always be my fellow artists, those from the past as well as my contemporaries.
It seems that the subject of most of your published works are happy people or empowered women. Why is that?
I am a very happy person most of the time. I like to share something that feels nice. Since there are always so many stressful or negative situations happening around the world, I prefer to contribute in the little good things that make you forget those bad ones, even for just a couple of seconds.
So, how do you create a work whenever you aren’t in the best mood (seeing that you illustrate using mostly bright shades and/or happy-looking subjects)?
It might seem odd but I usually don’t use my illustrations to share sad feelings. If I am feeling down, I either listen to music, dance, or write about it. It is very rare that I do indeed paint something sad, but if I do, I try to make it either nostalgic or focused on love as being more important than sadness.
How do you feel about using your talent and your artwork for activism or social awareness movements?
I guess the best part about art is that you can help people find interest in different issues; probably because it is visually more attractive than just reading text on issues. I have had a couple of “reposts” or comments, such as “I didn’t know this”, or “this is so interesting” or “I am going to do this and that…”. I guess those are the best reactions, seeing people interested and taking the time to read a couple of pointers thanks to the illustration. I want to be active in so many causes; there is so much work to do to better the world, and that means I have many projects to share.
What are your long-term goals as an artist?
I usually don’t like to think about long-term goals. I like to work in the present. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan, but anything can happen at any time, and I may end up doing something unexpected. So, my long-term goal will always be this one: I’ll be doing something that I love, continuing to learn and explore, and to help the world in any way I can, with and without art.
Andrea Caballero was born and raised in Mexico City, and came to New York City at 18 to study dance. She later completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with honors in illustration at the School of Visual Arts.